Tuesday, May 15, 2012

book review: "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

I have seen this novel a couple of times at my favorite secondhand bookstore, but what finally made me buy a copy were the recommendations from members of The Historical Fiction Group at Shelfari.

Trying to rebuild their lives after the Second World War, writer Juliet Ashton receives a letter from farmer Dawsey Adams, who lives on the island of Guernsey in the English Channel, asking her to recommend a book seller who would send him Charles Lamb's works. Thus begins the correspondence between Juliet and the other members of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, and other characters that inhabit Juliet's life in London and Dawsey's life in Guernsey.

I finished the book in an afternoon, stopping near the end for a cup of tea and a tuna sandwich (I dislike cucumbers) to savor the book longer. I was charmed by Guernsey and its people. Each character's personality comes across in the letters he or she writes, making me mourn the disappearing art of letter-writing in this age of the internet. I especially empathize with Juliet, who at the age of 32 has mostly resigned herself to living a solitary life with her writing and her books, breaking off her engagement with a man who would dare empty her bookshelves and pack her books in boxes.

The story wanders, although Juliet remains the center, but that's how life happens; one can't impose order on it. Still, the novel affirms the fact that sometimes it is not the book that matters, but the company of people who enjoy books and reading as much as one does.


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